Pima County says it will try to bypass state on FEMA vaccine assistance

Enough for 210,000 people
Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 7:49 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said he will reconsider whether to prohibit FEMA from providing vaccine directly to Pima County. But just because he says he will reconsider doesn’t mean he will change his mind.

The federal emergency agency approached the county two weeks ago with a plan to double the number of doses the county receives from the state for eight weeks.

The plan is to distribute the vaccine into hard-to-reach minority and underserved areas, generally on Tucson’s south side, which have seen the most cases and most deaths. But Pima County would need state permission to carry out the plan.

Gov. Ducey said the state did not want the two planned federal sites. The sites would be in the El Pueblo Center and the Events Center at Kino Park.

County officials were taken aback by the denial after they had set up the deal with FEMA.

In an emergency meeting Wednesday morning, March 24, the county board voted unanimously to ask the governor to reconsider his decision and if he didn’t, try to contract with FEMA directly.

While in Tucson to get his second dose at the University of Arizona site, the governor was asked if he would reconsider the decision and he said “Yes.”

He went on to say, “I’m going to revisit this issue because the board of supervisors feels so strongly about it.”

Just how strongly is summed up to the responses to the governor’s decision by members of the board.

“To refuse the assistance for an additional 210,000 people to get fully vaccinated in irresponsible,” said District 5 Supervisor Adelita Grijalva.

“For the state government to stand in the way of that is just completely reckless and irresponsible,” said District 1 Supervisor Rex Scott.

“I’m in favor of anything from anywhere that brings more vaccines for anyone in Pima County,” said District 4 Supervisor Steve Christy.

The board voted to pass a resolution which suggests the county will try to contract directly with FEMA for the doses and two federal sites.

However a FEMA spokesperson said “FEMA does not contract with counties.”

But the county says unless it gets a favorable ruling from the state, it will continue to try.

“That’s probably difficult to have happen,” said County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. “But it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.”

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